The United in Christ Ministry (UCM) is a collection (consortium) of seven area Lutheran and Methodist churches that formed in 2014 to join together as they face the challenges of today and in the future. These challenges include attendance issues, pastoral leadership, finances and other concerns.
As reported in The Lutheran magazine (August, 2015): 33% of Lutheran congregations currently have average worship attendance of 50 or less compared to 20% in 2000. 82% of congregations declined by 5% or more from 2000 to 2013. “If you are an ELCA member, chances are good your congregation is learning to do ministry with fewer people in the pews.”
The ELCA currently has a 25% vacancy rate for pastors. There is a 10% vacancy rate in our own Northwest Synod. Nationally in the ELCA 40% of rural churches are without a pastor. There is also a declining availability of supply pastors. Our Synod is scheduled to retire 45 pastors in the next three years with likely only 15 seminary graduates available. (Bishop Hoyme speaking to the UCM group at English Lutheran in April of 2016)
These challenges will not go away without active intervention from local churches, regional synods and the national ELCA organization. Therefor it is important that everyone becomes involved and that they use their collective resources to address these concerns.
The United in Christ Ministry group, more commonly referred to as the “Consortium,” can actively intervene. Current members of this consortium include: Big Drywood Lutheran Church of Cadott; English Lutheran Church of Bateman; Our Savior’s Lutheran Church of Cornell; Our Savior’s Lutheran Church of Stanley; St. James Trinity Lutheran Church of Fall Creek; St. John’s Lutheran Church of Gilman; United Methodist Church of Thorp.
Representatives from these churches sponsor “get to know you events” where they talk about issues, play games, and socialize together. These efforts are designed to develop foundational relationships and to share ideas between consortium church members.
Cabin Ridge Rides in Cadott has served as a meeting site for Consortium church members to come together for worship, messages to ponder, music, food and fellowship. Participants are transported by horse-drawn vehicles to an “off the grid” chapel set deep in the woods. In this isolated setting, the people sing, pray, commune and worship together as one. Through these united experiences, commonalities are discovered and bonds are strengthened for working together toward challenge-driven goals.
The United in Christ Ministry remains in its infancy, with hope for further growth. To read more about UCM, go to: UCMinistry.org